Good Cryptkeeping: Corpse Paint

When I was a young girl, ‘makeup’ consisted of some LipSmackers (the glittery kind if you were extra-sassy) and some chalky blue eyeshadow; there were only a handful of brands and certainly there weren’t entire stores dedicated only to makeup and beauty products located in almost every city. Now, most people drop hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest products, and it seems like every week a new palette or lip formula drops to compete with its peers. Scores of people make a living from reviewing and doing tutorials on the products, and it’s an entire subculture with a language and code all their own. Daunting, to say the least, to someone who wasn’t born with a BeautyBlender in their hand.  Add to the huge range of products available the fact that some of the influencers and faces behind some of these brands just aren’t very nice people--- from animal testing and dubious ingredients/quality control to accusations and incidents of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and more, makeup brands have to not only worry about beating your face but saving their own. So how is any one consumer supposed to wade through this to find the ones worth ponying up for?

Fear not, my glamourous ghouls.  This is the Good Cryptkeeping you’ve been waiting for; your ghostess with the mostest assembled a crack team of makeup-savvy people and we tackled the task of reviewing and testing some AMAZING indie brands. All of these brands are small businesses, owned primarily by women, 100% cruelty-free (and vegan in almost every case, too!), and affordable. They are also horror fans; each brand that we reviewed either slanted toward an alternative/horror aesthetic in general or they release horror-themed collections or products, which we factored into our reviews.

First things first, whether it’s moisturizing your scales or trying to pass for human, having good skin is the foundation of any makeup application, and GlimmerBat Studio has you completely covered. All of the products are holistic and made with ingredients that will make your skin happy, although the line isn’t vegan due to use of beeswax. However, whether it’s natural toothpaste or a Morticia Addams-themed bath soak you’re looking for, owner Blix has you covered. If you’ve ever seen my hair, you’d know that it’s thin, brittle and fried from tons of bleach and unnatural hair colors. I pretty much just keep it cut short and hope for the best. But GlimmerBat’s Re-Animator hair treatment was an amazing remedy. Made of coconut and sunflower oil and a bit of honey, you heat it for a few seconds in a water bath in the microwave and then you smooth it through your hair and let it set. I put a shower cap on to help lock in the warmth and let it process deeper; when I rinsed it, my hair was much smoother and softer, the split ends felt less damaged, and it didn’t really have a powerful smell that similar treatments sometimes do. While my hair was in rehab for the drama I put it through, I slathered my face in the Fading Spectre mask, which uses rose petals and primrose oil to gently diminish blemishes and peels off to reveal hydrated, plumped skin. I also used the Lestat de Lioncourt scrub cubes which I am OBSESSED with. Not only are they super convenient because you can just take one small cube with you into a shower or toss it in a sandwich baggie for travel purposes, but they smell like a leather jacket and fresh vanilla bean. It buffed my skin to a soft glow and left me smelling like a New Orleans rockstar vampire, what’s not to love about that? Their Lamia facial serum is wonderful before bed; it has a calming scent of ylang ylang and neroli oil and it smooths your skin and gives you a little flushed glow, really hydrating and soothing. I have natural redness in my skin, not quite rosacea but close, and I felt like a few nights of this serum had me waking up with less pink tones than usual and calmer, less-inflamed skin. My only real criticism with GlimmerBat was the packaging; the containers are not always spill-proof and they’re sealed with very cute bat-themed tape that, while adorable, isn’t really effective when your products are this ‘wet’. Several products arrived to me with a little bit of leakage and the containers can get a little messy when you’re opening and closing them multiple times; I ended up re-homing several of the products into different vials or jars for convenience. I believe that Blix is aware of the issue since several products came in sandwich baggies as well as their own packaging. However, everything worked fantastically and nothing irritated my usually sensitive skin at all; it all did exactly what Blix promised it would, and my favorite thing about GlimmerBat was a toss-up between the fact that everything was affordable (the most expensive item I tried was $8) and the fact that most of the products can be bought in a single-use packet for around $1.50 just to test them out and see if you love it before you commit. The hot oil in particular would be perfect to take in a carry-on bag in case your hair needs some quick rescue on a trip, I know mine gets crazy from the different hotel showers and things when I’m out of town.

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Once your skin is glowing and the mortals are complimenting you on your complexion, you can begin to have fun with the giant world of makeup! While indie brands are gaining popularity, I believe that most people still rely heavily on packaging, marketing materials, product placement and availability when it comes to buying makeup. Buying cosmetics online is iffy because you can’t see it in person or put your hands on it to test it, and you have to trust a brand you’ve never heard of to deliver quality for your buck. It only seemed fair that I loop in friends to help.

I assembled a crack team of people who love to play with makeup, and most of them do it or some variation on it for a living. My team included Vivienne Vermuth a professional makeup and hair artist as well as burlesque queen; May May Graves, a horror-punk drag queen and genderfluid musician; Vylette Vivacious, Chordella Smash and Marie, three amazingly talented ladies from the burlesque and art community in Dallas, and my darling Emma, who gets suckered into literally all of my evil schemes. We descended like locusts on the Dallas School of Burlesque and Drag, mostly because they get amazing natural light and have hot pink furniture, and spent an afternoon playing with these great little makeup brands and creating looks.

The first company we reviewed was Spectrum Cosmetic. Spectrum is the whole enchilada; not only do they offer everything from eyeshadow, lip lacquer, nail polish and perfume, they also carry their own brushes and cleaners, and they have a gift-wrapping service. Spectrum offers a huge variety of colors and their site sorts them many ways, including categories for each eye color so that you can pick things that will traditionally compliment your look. Spectrum did an entire line of eyeshadows based on Edgar Allen Poe references, for example. Their shade Blood Bath is a perfect primary matte red, while its sister Naughty List has an amazing metallic shimmer for a chromatic crimson look. Their shade Fireworks was a huge hit with everyone; an ultra-deep black with glitter flecks to add depth and dimension, it was far from subtle. They even offer a gel riddled with little confetti bats for accenting--- don’t put this too close to your eyes, but it looks amazing to finish off a dramatic spooky look! Their products had amazing pigment and very little fall-out if you spritzed your brush with a bit of setting spray first, and we were all fighting over who got to keep the sample of ‘Fireworks’ at the end of the session!

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The mastermind behind Apocalyptic Beauty has it all figured out; another wide-ranging product line that carries everything from lip glosses to contour powders and delightfully-scented setting sprays, Apocalyptic has found the perfect balance of affordable and unique. The sample of their Hypnotic Kiss lip balm I received (mine was in Cherry Chant but there are over twelve flavors to pick from!) immediately became a staple in my purse; the ultra-hydrating gloss smelled amazing and tasted great thanks to added Stevia, and I love knowing that it’s a vegan, cruelty-free product that costs less than $3 and leaves intense moisture and shine on my muzzle. Apocalyptic have a MASSIVE selection of eyeshadow colors with insanely fun shade names like “No More Room in Hell”, “Lamia Daycare”, “Send More Paramedics”, and “Horrorshow”. The colors are some of the most vivid hues I’ve ever seen, and extremely blendable; honestly, the ones I sampled were easy dupes for the much pricier Sugarpill loose pigments I usually keep on hand. My personal favorite was “Vogon Poetry”, an unapologetic Troma-worthy green that lit up my lids like lime wedges, but Emma and May May were both in love with “Holiday on the Moon”, a black-and-metallic-teal duochrome shadow that worked perfectly both as an eyeshadow and as a prismatic lip hue when paired with a clear gloss. Emma patted it over the top of her lipstick for a gleaming finish. The shop sells its own mixing medium for less than $5 which, when a few drops are added to any eyeshadow shade, can transform any loose pigment into a liquid liner or give it a beautiful foil finish. Multiple people tested it and were delighted; Emma paired it with a small sprinkle of a black shade to create her own liner, while May May used it to turn a silvery hue into a metallic white on her lids. They make multiple custom glitter blends; we sampled “Pastel Hell”, a mix of tiny confetti bats and neon Halloween-themed glitter, which May May declared something she would absolutely use regularly in her drag performances. Their setting spray comes in eight delicious scents; my personal favorite was the Patchouli, but the Vanilla Sugar and Hot Cocoa are delicious also, and a lovely alternative to the usually bland mainstream setting sprays. Honestly, I do think that Apocalyptic’s setting spray was comparable to the Too Faced Hangover or Urban Decay All-Nighter that I usually use, and at less than $8 for a 2-ounce spray bottle, you can’t go wrong. Its primary ingredients are witch hazel and aloe vera gel, so even the most sensitive skin will find their makeup pristine at the end of the night thanks to Apocalyptic. The only product we weren’t crazy about was the liquid lipstick; as with many liquid lips from all brands, the formula wasn’t quite right and it went on streaky and patchy even after multiple coats. But it dried quickly and both Emma and Chordella topped it with a complimenting eyeshadow hue and set it with gloss, which made it a great base to build upon for a final look. They also have a liquid highlighter called Holographic Warpaint which comes in multiple bold shades and creates a luminous glow when mixed with your regular foundation of choice. You only need a few drops to illuminate your skin; we tested White Gold, which led to Vivienne painting her face with it for a much more avante garde look than most people might use it for. Chordella noted that it did seem like it might settle into wrinkles or large pores if you don’t use a proper primer and foundation for it, but for our application it worked perfectly and we loved that it came in so many bold color choices. With Apocalyptic, you get high quality and tons of variety to customize the products you like; whether you want neon pink eyeliner or purple glow-in-the-dark glitter bats or mint green liquid highlighter, they have you covered in spades, and almost everything on their site is under ten dollars.

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Whether your nerdiness is based in horror, like us, or the more sci-fi/fantasy side of things, Merchant of Gallifrey has something for every geeky notion when it comes to fandom makeup. Lip glosses inspired by Doctor Who, Sailor Moon, even David Bowie albums abound; my personal favorite was “Sanderson Sister”, a moisturizing but not-sticky gloss that was sheer but still carried plenty of color in a sort of spicy terra-cotta brownish red. The gloss had a very nice smell and the texture was creamy and not heavy or gloopy; Vylette used it and complimented the smooth application and formula while Marie used it in “Spooknik”, a sheer gray-black gloss that darkens whatever lip base you might be wearing while giving you a great-smelling top coat of glitter and shiny moisture. Their strength is in their lip gloss; they do carry eyeshadows, which are adorable and have great pigment and awesome names, but if you’re looking for a wide range of shadow shades there are other shops to choose from. Hopefully Merchant will be expanding their eyeshadow line soon, as the pigments we did test (“Swamp Mistress”, a mossy deep green metallic hue from  the “My Little Monstrosity” collection and the “Post-Punk” quad, where each color is named after a cool alternative song), were great. I especially loved ‘Charlotte Sometimes’, a vivid magenta, and ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, a gunmetal gray. The colors pop but lack the insane intensity of some other brands (though if you put them over primer, as always, the payoff is much more rich) so these are more suitable for those who like to be a little more conservative with their spooky makeup.

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Printcess Makeup is unique and adorable in that all of their makeup shades are inspired by literature, and the items come packaged in the torn-out pages of books. The fun-themed colors are sorted by genre, so if horror isn’t your forte when it comes to makeup, check out adorable hues inspired by noir pulp crime novels, “Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters”, and a screaming neon blue called “Technobabble”. Vivienne loved “Ghost Door” as a white pop to build from on her lids, and Marie loved ‘Hungries’, a rich metallic golden-taupe shade that was the perfect shimmery nude with her olive skin tone. Both shades gave gorgeous gleam with very minimal fallout. They were very blendable and highly pigmented; the nice thing about Printcess is that the colors we tried would all be fantastic for day or night, they’re so easy to build up or use as a crease shade if you don’t feel bold enough to paint your whole lid in them. It’s only $1 to try samples of any shade, and each sample will easily last 2-4 applications, so do yourself a favor and grab a handful; a mixed bag of bright hues would be the perfect gift for the book-loving makeup addict in your life!

Black Beauty Cosmetics is a terrific company that focuses on providing allergen-free, vegan, cruelty-free products to all with a strong focus on the horror community. Shades range from “Pennywise” (the bright orange of a certain set of pom-pom buttons) to “Carrie” (a metallic red, of course) to “Dahmer”, a gorgeous shimmering purple. They have shadow lines based on famous serial killers, Renaissance artists (“Da Vinci” is my personal favorite), and of course scary movies. The shades have great coverage and are truly beautiful with lots of shimmer on their own, but when we paired them with a primer or mixing liquid, they really popped, especially the foil shades like “Rembrandt”, possibly the most true silver I’ve ever used (think the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz). At $2 a color, you really can’t go wrong with buying a big handful to try out, but make sure to add that mixing medium if you really want them to be seen from the other side!

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One of the more well-known indie horror makeup companies out there is Lunatick Labs, who have licensed products featuring famous spooky vixens like Elvira and Vampira and are carried by counter-culture sites like Dolls Kill. Lunatick pride themselves not only in their amazing packaging (your product comes in a black coffin-shaped mailing box!) but a high quality of product that is cruelty-free, paraben and gluten-free, vegan and talc-free. Their palettes are sturdy construction and covered in great licensed artwork, making them beyond cute to throw in your bag; their pressed powder is shaped like a Ouija planchette! May May was obsessed with the Vampira coffin eyeshadow palette and raved about the fantastic color payoff and easily-blendable, velvety formula. The Vampire liquid lip was a vivid shocking purple that went on smooth and had full coverage on the first swipe, leaving lips glossy but not sticky and completely pigmented in the bright hue. Lunatick runs sales frequently and are always launching new products; follow them on social media to keep up with their newest items!

Alongside Lunatick is Makeup Monsters. If Lunatick is the sophisticated goth Morticia, then Makeup Monsters is the Lisa Frank of the underworld; brilliant neon shades of liquid lipsticks and eyeshadows, brightly-pigmented highlighters, even their own brand of rainbow mermaid-worthy hair dyes make up their line. Honestly, Makeup Monsters is easily on par with the quality of high-end brands like Sugarpill, Lime Crime or Jeffree Star. Their lip formulas come in virtually every shade imaginable, from matte white to metallic black, screaming electric yellow or poison green or shimmering glittery blue, as well as a wide range of neutrals, rose colors and softer pinks, browns and nudes for more subdued looks. Makeup Monsters even sell glittery lip topper effect glosses that are near-perfect dupes for Urban Decay’s Vice Special Effects top coat. Makeup Monsters is of course vegan and cruelty-free and dedicate themselves to handcrafting and inspecting each batch for the highest possible quality and consistency. While their ‘daily wear’ colors are fantastic, the neons and outlandish colors are where they truly shine; any burlesque performer, drag queen, musician or model would look incredible in these hues, as they pop from a distance and the pigment can’t be beat. They also have several mini-sized sampler sets available, and a ‘discontinuing’ section of the website that offers final closeout prices on older color formulas as they make room for their always-evolving new shades.

Also making the rounds, mostly via social media, is a company called Belladonna’s Cupboard, who went viral last year thanks to a set of Cthulu-inspired makeup brushes that sold out during the pre-order. Belladonna have a strong background in both traditional beauty and special effects makeup, and their products are not for the wallflowers of the world. Water-activated palettes feature artwork involving Cthulu, Baphomet and the demon from sleep paralysis mythology, to name a few, and their products are free of parabens, gluten, talc and are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Belladonna is quite popular among musicians and stage performers since their makeup can be seen from the back row; they are more like paint once you apply them. This led to a bit of difficulty for Vylette when testing the palette, as there’s a learning curve when blending such unyielding pigments and your brush needs to be just the right amount of wet to get a proper payoff, but anyone familiar with applying water-activated makeup will find them vibrant, bold and electric. These are amazing for creative, wild looks for experienced makeup artists, and one awesome factor is that Belladonna hosts free makeup tutorials, videos and an FAQ on their page to encourage people to play with their looks and get the most out of the products.

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Sigil Inspired is… madness. There’s no other way to describe them. Three women from Moscow, Russia create the most unbelievable chromatic high-foil intensity blends of eyeshadow; these don’t even look like makeup, they look like mermaid scales or dragon skin or something equally fantastic and surreal. Use a quality primer, spritz your brush with setting spray and drag these across your skin for mesmerizing payoff; these would be incredible additions to any stage performer or makeup artist’s kit. The colors are unreal, usually duochromes that shift constantly with movement and changes in light, and you can mix and blend them out to your own specifications to get the perfect gradient. These are bold, perfect pigments for special occasions, editorial work, creative photoshoots or stage productions. I can honestly say these are the richest holographic shadows I’ve ever used. They do ship from Russia so allow yourself a lead time, but if you’re looking for wild, eccentric hues, you can’t beat Sigil (or their prices!). Their pigments also come in small jars that screw together to create a stack for easy storage.

Fabled Fragrances is an Austin, Texas-based cosmetics and perfume company that handmakes all of her formulas with the attempt of making all-natural products that don’t smell like alcohol or chemicals. They have a huge variety of product, but my personal favorite was their Lovecraftian line of eyeshadows. Shoggoth in particular is a wonderful shimmery greenish-grayish brown that can build up nicely or be worn as a stand-alone duochrome shade; I would recommend a good primer, however, for maximum payoff and with a few drops of a mixing medium you can turn any of these into beautiful foil finishes. (As a non-makeup side note, their perfume blend Harvest Moon smells exactly how you imagine fall--- crisp leaves, pumpkins, everything we love, and it’s the perfect thing to dab on yourself to get into a spooky mood.) Their liquid lipsticks have a great coverage and a non-drying, smooth matte formula; I used Cornucopia which is a great burnt-orange-brown shade that dried great; it was also a fantastic base for when I put a metallic special effects coat over the top later, and wore for several hours without any real issues with flaking or drying out.

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The final brand that we reviewed was Emby Boutique, which specializes in highly-pigmented pressed glitter and duochrome eyeshadow palettes. While a bit pricier than many of the items we reviewed (a standard palette runs around $30-$40 here), the quality is incredible. The colors are rich and metallic, foil and buttery-smooth on the skin for effortless blending and depth. They range from gorgeous autumn hues to UV-reactive pigments perfect for an EDM festival, blacklight party or concert venue, and the payoff on all of them is unbelievable. Unfortunately the photos we took of this palette were corrupted, but these images from Emby’s site should show you the kind of quality you can expect from this line of product. Vylette also had a great time creating a powerful blended shimmery look with them; she had her best luck with a glitter primer and building up the unique colors on her lids.They have a wide variety of pre-arranged palettes to try or you can build a custom one; the one pictured is the Dark Princess palette, which looks like molten copper and pumpkin space lattes and is absolutely perfect for the oncoming fall. Honestly, this brand is comparable to other rich brands like Huda or Kat Von D’s Metal Crush line, and all products are vegan and all orders have free shipping.

Equally important as the makeup are the tools you need to apply it; never fear, ghoulfriends! The indie makers and bone-shakers out there heard your cries of lamentation and have whipped up some special makeup accessories to help you beat that face. CookieDough Déco has a set of amazing horror brushes that are impossibly cheap and ship free from the UK; the bat brush in particular is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen, and the brushes are durable with metal decorations on the tip. After three uses and a good wash mine is not shedding hairs or anything yet, and I love how cute they look in their little-zippered coffin carrying pouch. There are also these gnarly brushes from Graveyard Glamour, designed to look like their outer skin was peeled away to reveal the raw meat beneath. KRDR Designs makes adorable coffin-shaped brush holders for your vanity if you need a final resting place for your new brushes, or you can get a human skull replica or a severed clown head brush holder if that suits your fancy more. On my vanity, however, is this little guy from Gloom Matter Store. Always a conversation piece in my bathroom, this heavy holder is done in sealed cement and can hold about fifteen makeup brushes easily. There are also coffin-shaped lipstick holders for your countertop if you want to help keep your pout organized and neat. If you want something more portable, however, Haute Mess Thread has a lot of adorable brush rolls like this vintage horror-inspired one; just slide your brushes into place and roll it up for safe-keeping and easy travel. Need an adorable hand mirror to survey your handiwork and make sure that, like Suzanne from Night of the Demons, your makeup is okay? Try this awesome glittery Creature from the Black Lagoon hand mirror. There are even horror-themed makeup brush cleaners; like this brain from the fantastic Potion Cabinet. Just wet your brush and swirl them around in either of these items, then rinse; your brushes will be clean and soft and smelling great, unlike the dark swamp that is your soul.

After piling into a hot pink dance studio to swap makeup tips, sip champagne and finish the day with fancy artisanal ice cream to celebrate, our gang had successfully tested over ten brands from amazing independent companies. Here are photos of everyone’s final looks, with the products they used!

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May May Graves used Apocalyptic’s Holographic Warpaint in ‘Sheer White Gold’ and a base coat of their liquid lipstick in ‘Medusa’, Tater Rounds Beauty ‘Morticia’ eyeshadow with mixing medium as a liquid liner and a base eyeshadow for her lids, the ‘Vampire’ palette from Lunatick for the eyes, and Apocalyptic’s duochrome eyeshadow ‘Holiday on the Moon’ as a brow and eye accent color. The glitter under her eyes was Apocalyptic’s ‘Pastel Hell’ bat medley, with accents of ‘Snake Goddess’.

Emma used Holographic Warpaint in ‘Sheer White Gold’ as a highlight on her cheekbones, and used setting spray on her brush before applying Apocalyptic’s ‘Snake Goddess’ to her lids, blending it out with Spectrum’s ‘Fireworks’ and a liquefied Tater Round’s ‘Morticia’ as a liner for the top lid. The glitter freckles on her face are Apocalyptic’s ‘Black Magic’ mix, with ‘Holiday on the Moon’ as a blue-green duochrome shimmer on top of ‘Medusa’ lipstick base.

Vivienne used a base of Printcess’s ‘Ghost Door’ on her lids, with accents from the ‘Haunted Mansion’ palette by Pretty Scary (their online shop is down right now, hence no link) and Black Beauty’s liquid glitter liner in ‘Pumpkin King’, with Apocalyptic’s ‘Sleek White Gold’ highlight as face paint art.

Marie used a combination of Black Beauty’s ‘Barozol’, ‘Carrie’, ‘UFO’ and ‘Ouija’ on her lids to achieve a soft neutral base, with ‘Da Vinci’ as a highlighter on her cheekbones and brow. On her lids is Printcess’s ‘Hungries’, and her lips are a combination of ‘Apathy’ liquid lip by Apocalyptic and a top coat of the ‘Spooknik’ gloss from Merchant of Gallifrey.

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Vylette used Black Beauty mineral shadows in ‘Sinner’, ‘Da Vinci’ and ‘Baroque’ as a base on her lids and then accented with the Belladonna’s Cupboard Cthulu palette’s more subdued shades. Her lips are Merchant of Gallifrey’s ‘Sanderson Sister’ lip gloss, and she used a bit of Emby Boutique sparkle to finish off the overall look.

Chordella built a base on her eyes from Apocalyptic’s ‘Occult BBQ’, ‘They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara’ and ‘Cannibal Potluck’, with accents of ‘Naughty List’ and ‘Fireworks’ from Spectrum well-blended to get this fiery goth finished look. Her lip is a base of ‘Medusa’ by Apocalyptic with ‘They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara’ eyeshadow over the top for shimmer.

In a day and age where everywhere from convenience stores to high-end boutiques sell makeup in more brands, varieties and colors than any one person could possibly test in their lifetime, why go out of your way to find even more? Because we at Good Cryptkeeping believe in championing the underdogs; the small business owners, all of whom in this case are women, who use their creativity and resourcefulness and passion to create these amazing products, to hand-make them and market them and ship them out personally. These businesses aren’t fronted by celebrities or Youtube spokespeople or athletes; you won’t see them on a full-page spread in a fashion magazine and you can’t see them when you walk into your makeup stores. But they are also proof of the hard work, sweat and creative juices that flow from the counterculture community, fans of things that are spooky and fantastic and creepy-wonderful, and when you buy from them, you’re putting your money back into an artist’s hand, a creator’s grasp, instead of a nameless, faceless corporation. Every company that was endorsed in this article was 100% cruelty-free and vegan, with no animal testing, and many products were also free of harmful chemicals or allergens. Every company has a real person behind it, a person who answers customer inquiries and creates custom products and works hard to find solutions to get you exactly the look you want. Art begets art; buy something beautiful from these shops and create something beautiful with it. The world needs all the loveliness it can get, and if that starts with painting your face, then let’s go full Bob Ross on this fucker.

Be sure to tell ‘em you saw it on GhastlyGrinning.com!